International - Written by Barry & Richard on Monday, February 8, 2016 5:07 - 0 Comments
OPINION: Proper funding for the SFO and other economic crime enforcement enforcement is vital
SFO budget and other law enforcement budget cuts and caps remain a concern.
Q. What are these numbers?
2832. The number of tips to its SFO Confidential dedicated email address received by the SFO last year.
324. The increase in tips received by the SFO over the last year.
16. The number of cases opened by the SFO last year.
21,137,000. The amount of emergency funding £’s sought by the SFO last month.
Tip offs are an important source of intelligence for law enforcement agencies the world over.
Importantly, the SFO say that its strict take on criteria mean that many of the tip offs it receives are not sufficiently serious for it to deal with and that it passes them on.
In the United States the importance of tip offs are recognised.
A specific Office of the Whistleblower exists for the purpose in connection with SEC registered companies. Those providing tip offs which result in enforcement action and fines can receive a percentage of the take.
The Annual Report of the US Office of the Whistleblower for 2015 reports:
“In Fiscal Year 2015, we received nearly 4,000 whistleblower tips, a 30% increase over the number of tips received in Fiscal Year 2012, the first year for which we have full-year data . Many of the tips have led staff in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement (“Enforcement”) to open an investigation or are being considered in connection with an existing investigation .”
In the UK it’s a different story.
The SFO does its best and has a dedicated contact address for tips offs.
But UK law enforcement more generally has no dedicated office for whistleblowing.
There are no bounties in the UK – an argument is made that that would be unBritish. Though in the Annual Report published by the Office of the Whistleblower the UK was the source for the most tip offs received from outside the US. 72 tips were received from people based in the UK.
In the UK questions are posed about the motivation behind those making tip offs in pursuit of the bounty (ignoring that most whistleblowers have an axe to grind of some sort or the other).
The SFO remains hamstrung by funding and deserves more to perform its important role in underpinning confidence in UK PLC.
Only last month the agency sought top up funding of 21 million GBP which was reported in the Houses of Commons as follows:
“The advance is required to meet an urgent cash requirement on existing services pending Parliamentary approval of the 2015-16 Supplementary Estimate. The Supplementary Estimate will seek an increase in both the Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit and the Net Cash Requirement in order to cover the cost of significant investigations and the settlement of material liabilities.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £21,137,000 (twenty one million, one hundred and thirty seven thousand pounds) will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for the Serious Fraud Office. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £15,500,000 (fifteen million, five hundred thousand pounds) will be met by a repayable cash advance from the Contingencies Fund.”
The SFO has specific take on criteria and is set up to focus on top end fraud.
It therefore must pass these tips on to other cash strapped law enforcement agencies to deal.
Fighting economic crime is critical across the spectrum. Whether it be phishing/credit card fraud right up to top end fraud and corruption which impacts international markets and the UK’s standing.
And yet. Economic crime remains an area where budgets are tight across law enforcement.
This needs to be addressed.
Proper funding and certainty for the SFO and other law enforcement agencies tackling other economic collar crime is vital to ensure a level playing field in the UK for UK PLC and for UK consumers.
Otherwise we are all being let down by government.